Ekushey Book Fair did not see a big crowd on Monday, the first day of the seven-day lockdown imposed to stem the rising Covid-19 cases and deaths.
Pavilions and stalls at the fair organised on the Bangla Academy premises and at the Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital were almost lifeless in terms of visitors from 12 noon to 5pm. Many stalls did not even open as they had thought there would be no sales due to the lockdown.
The Bangla Academy attributed the low turnout of visitors to the closure of public transports and the fear of infection as the book fair continued amid the lockdown.
Most of the stalls sold only two to three books during the five hours. Some renowned publications sold some books, but they said the figures were only 10% of the sales volumes recorded on any other day during this year's fair.
No one was allowed to enter the fair without a face mask. Fair officials made loudspeaker announcements at regular intervals, urging visitors to adhere to the Covid-19 health guidelines.
Farzana Islam rode a rickshaw to come to the fair from Maghbazar. She planned to buy some books by her favourite authors.
She said she had come to the fair thinking that it would not be crowded during the lockdown.
"This is the first day I have come to this year's fair. Coronavirus has brought everything to a screeching halt this year," she said.
Shamsul Islam came to the fair with his family by car from Uttara. He said he had come as he was not sure whether the fair would continue further during the lockdown.
"The authorities know better how logical it is to keep the fair open during the restrictions," he said.
Prathama Prakashani Manager Zakir Hossain questioned the logic behind keeping the fair open. He said how people would buy books as even coming to the fair amid the lockdown and the pandemic situation had become difficult.
"Sales are already lower this year. Compared to the previous years, sales have dipped by as much as 90%," he added.
Shampa Akhter of Tamralipi Prakashani said her stall had got no visitor before 3pm.
"Only a handful of people came after 3pm, but the number was not even 10% compared to other days."
Children book stalls mostly closed
More than half of the stalls selling children's books were shut while the ones that were open saw poor sales.
Rakib Hasan of Jhingephool Prakashani said, "It seems like participating in this year's fair has put us in trouble. We only sold a Tk130 book during the whole day today. Keeping the stall shut would have been better."
Priya Prakash owner Atiq Rahman, who is also a writer, said this year's fair had flopped compared to any other year in history.
Terming this a bad time, he said the fair should not have been held, adding sales had plummeted because of the lockdown.
Expressing disappointment, he said, "We cannot even take the books away from the stall as that would be against the agreement signed with the Bangla Academy."
But Bangla Academy officials said the number of visitors would go up within a day or two despite the lockdown.
Zakir Hossain Shikder, editor of manuscripts at the Bangla Academy, said sales at their stall had been up 30% compared to other days.
He said many people had stayed home as Monday was the first day of the lockdown, adding that booklovers would come to the fair despite troubles.
Monday, the 19th day of the fair, saw the publication of 88 books. Also, a total of 2,189 books had been published until Monday.
This year's fair accommodated 834 stalls of 540 organisations.